New York raises monkeypox alarm, San Francisco declares emergency

Authorities say the declarations will help authorities to mobilise resources.

A staff member of the Westchester Medical Center prepares a monkeypox vaccine in a drive-through monkeypox vaccination point at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, U.S., July 28, 2022. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
A staff member prepares a monkeypox vaccine in a drive-through monkeypox vaccination point at the Westchester Medical Center in New York [File: Reuters]

New York and San Francisco have issued monkeypox alerts as cases continue to rise and the United States faces a shortage of vaccines.

Authorities in New York said on Thursday the virus “represented an imminent threat” to public health across the state. Health Commissioner Mary T Bassett said the declaration would help health departments engaged in response and prevention activities “to access additional State reimbursement”.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, California, authorities declared monkeypox a “local public health emergency”. Mayor London Breed said the risk of disease remained low, but the declaration going into effect on August 1 would help in the mobilisation of resources.

“San Francisco showed during COVID that early action is essential for protecting public health,” Breed said in a statement on Thursday.

“We know that this virus impacts everyone equally – but we also know that those in our LGBTQ community are at greater risk right now.”

“A few weeks ago, the San Francisco Department of Public Health requested 35,000 vaccines to start to get at those most at risk for contracting the virus. So far, in the last three weeks, we’ve barely received a 1/3 of that request … we are going to need far more than 35,000 vaccines to protect our LGBTQ community and to slow the spread of this virus.”

The US has confirmed a total of 4,907 monkeypox cases, of which 1,247 are in New York, and 261 cases have been diagnosed in San Francisco.

Monkeypox is a usually mild virus that causes fever as well as a distinctive bumpy rash. It spreads through close contact, and during this outbreak, experts say the virus has been detected in a disproportionate number of men who have sex with men. Monkeypox is not known to be a sexually transmitted virus, but sexual contact would constitute as close contact, one of the main routes by which the virus is known to spread.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern”, a label that is designed to sound an alarm that a coordinated international response is needed and could unlock funding and global efforts to collaborate on sharing vaccines and treatments.

On Wednesday, the United Nations’ health agency called on the primary risk group – men who have sex with men – “to limit their sexual partners“.

Authorities in San Francisco said they were not implementing behaviour restrictions or measures like those carried out during the coronavirus pandemic.

The US and the European Union have approved the use of a vaccine made by Danish drugmaker Bavarian Nordic, in efforts to contain the outbreak.

Globally more than 18,000 cases have been detected in 78 countries, with the majority in Europe, according to the WHO.


Source: Al Jazeera